The Alliance Française de Paris has a long history of transmission, of outstretched hands. Its support since 2017 to the Program for the Reception of Scientists in Exile is yet another perfect illustration of this calling. And it is this very special matter that Camille Amat, administrative coordinator at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), tells us about today.
They have embarked on this path to understand physical phenomena. Or to respond to societal issues. Perhaps they were trying to anticipate tomorrow, by analyzing yesterday. But they would never have thought that what they would be searching for, one day, would be much more mundane: simply to stay alive.
All over the world, political violence has come to weigh dangerously on academic research. And it is to help these researchers in danger that France, in 2017, deployed the PAUSE initiative, the National Emergency Reception Program for Scientists in Exile, led by the Collège de France.
A great capacity to adapt
A reception organized through higher education institutions, where researchers can find a scientific refuge and continue their work for a year or two.
In Paris, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) is part of this chain of solidarity, under the responsibility of Cléo Carastro, lecturer and adviser for the President's office on issues concerning students and researchers in exile.
"It's a mission that requires a great deal of adaptability, due to the urgency of each situation," says Camille Amat, a former student of the school and administrative coordinator of the PAUSE program. "Sometimes their work is the cause of their being put in danger, other times it's because of the positions they take, their activism, whether or not it's related to their scientific activities. But in all cases, the recipients of PAUSE run the immediate risk of being imprisoned, when it is not their life that is threatened. It is therefore a matter of being able to put them out of danger within a few weeks.’’
But very quickly, the EHESS found itself confronted with an obstacle: the language barrier. "We are a small structure, and we don't have a French as foreign language program like some university departments do. And despite the good will of some teacher-researchers, the wide variety of profiles of the program's laureates did not allow us to offer them an adapted training. Some speak a little French, others don't, and some speak it very well but want to improve their writing... ".
Facilitating scientific integration
And then there’s another reality in France: within the academic world, the lack of French language skills can partially prevent scientific integration. Not to mention the social integration in this new country that these newcomers must apprehend.
"So we had the idea of calling on the Alliance Française de Paris, with whom we had established a partnership a few years earlier for our students. Their teams immediately responded with humanity to the urgency of our situations.’’
This informal support was put into practice the following year when the Alliance Française de Paris won a public contract with the EHESS.
"They are a wonderful team, particularly invested in the success of this partnership, showing great flexibility and a sense of collaboration that is greatly appreciated," praises Camille Amat.
"It is important to understand that, because of the urgency, we welcome scientists at any time of the year. Sometimes we call the Alliance just a week before their arrival, and the team always responds. They know how to adapt to the concerns of these scientists who have often experienced real trauma, and offer them, beyond the necessary language immersion, social networks and cultural experiences. All of this without ever revealing the reality of their situation. When a scientist comes to the Alliance, they are just one of many learners.’'
A window to escape harsh realities
And what do PAUSE recipients get out of all this?
"They are aware of the tailor-made nature of these courses, which are adapted to their profile as well as to their research schedule. And they also see it as a window on French culture that allows them to escape from their daily lives.’’
As for the Alliance Française de Paris, it demonstrates by participating in this program that it is much more than a simple language school.
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